Sending e-mail? Mind your manners.

March 21st, 2013


How many e-mails did you send out today? You probably lost count at some point just after lunch. The odds are you sent more than a dozen messages (or many, many more) to family members, friends, clients and co-workers. Here’s an important question to consider before hitting Send: Were any of those e-mail messages rude? Were any overly brief? Would any of the messages you sent today make their recipients wonder if they had done something to offend you? Yes, there exists such a thing as e-mail etiquette. Here’s a brief primer on how to mind your manners when sending e-mail.

Brevity is not always a plus

It’s tempting to answer some e-mail messages, whether from co-workers or friends, with one-word answers: “yes” or “no.” The problem is that such short messages might be off-putting to those on the receiving end. People might read the one-word reply and wonder if they had done something to annoy you. Why else would you be so short with them? To avoid this problem, you don't have to be a chatty Cathy, but do consider including a brief, natural sounding conversational element ("Hope your recent event went well") , or some other pleasant sentiment ("This winter weather sure is wearing out its welcome here.  How's the weather there?") along with your answer. It could make all the difference - and keep you from sounding socially awkward, to boot.  And if you’re sending your message from a tablet or smartphone, an e-mail signature tacked on is a helpful indicator on why your message might be brief.

Always answer

When those e-mail messages gather in your inbox, it’s very easy to let some slip through the cracks. But not responding to e-mail messages – not counting spam or advertising messages, of course – is straight up rude. Most every sender warrants an acknowledgement - at the very least a “Thank you” or a “Good to hear from you” message, even if you don’t have the time to completely respond to his or her message.

Slow down

We receive so many e-mails every day, it’s tempting to pound out replies and send them back without proofreading and editing them. After all, that takes away at least some of your e-mail clutter. But this can also result in messages full of typos, something that’s more than a bit off-putting. And if you don’t proof your messages, you might unintentionally forget to attach that report or photo you are promising. That’s irritating for recipients.

Be polite and do not shout

PR firm Ragan recommends that you remember your basic offline manners when generating e-mail messages. This means including those magic words as part of your messages, “please” and “thank you.” Too often, in the rush of composing and sending e-mails, we forget these niceties. Ragan also warns against shouting in your e-mail messages. For those who don’t know, “shouting” means typing in all capital letters. This looks extremely annoying on the computer screen and can be quite offensive.